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Former GOP chair Ken Mehlman comes out
Finally, an answer to our 2005 question
New York City--The question “people should not have to answer” got an answer five years after it was asked.
Ken Mehlman, the former top Republican and 2004 Bush campaign manager, is gay.
After years of rumors and pressure from activist and noted outer of closeted hypocrites Mike Rogers, mehlman came out in an interview with the Atlantic magazine.
The Atlantic released the article early this week to scoop Rogers, who was closing in.
Five years ago, in March 2005, the Gay People’s Chronicle was the first to ask Mehlman if he’s gay, on the record. The conversation occurred at the Summit County GOP’s annual Lincoln Day dinner in Akron.
“[You] have asked a question people shouldn’t have to answer,” Mehlman replied.
According to the Atlantic, Mehlman now admits misleading people who asked him directly.
The 2005 exchange became the basis for a chapter in the book The Architect by journalists James Moore and Wayne Slater. The book chronicles how Mehlman and Bush strategist Karl Rove, whose father is gay, used anti-gay constitutional amendments to whip up conservative and evangelical voters in states where the Bush-Cheney ticket needed high turnout for the 2004 election.
Ohio was one of those states. The constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil union passed with 62 percent of the vote. It is now Article XV, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution.
In the Atlantic and in a second arranged post-coming-out interview with the Advocate, Mehlman admitted what had been widely documented, including in the Chronicle six years earlier, that the 11 state marriage ban amendments, including Ohio’s, were engineered to help Bush win.
Rove continues to deny this.
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” Mehlman told the Atlantic. “The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Mehlman chaired the Republican National Committee from Bush’s 2004 victory until 2007, during the time when the Republican Party pushed its most anti-gay agenda, including platform statements, gay-baiting opponents, and an infamous mailing in West Virginia linking homosexuality to atheism.
The constitutional amendments continued in 2006, too, under Mehlman’s watch.
Mehlman told the Atlantic, “What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn’t always heard. I didn’t do this in the gay community at all.”
Mehlman, an attorney, is now living in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York where he is a vice president of the private equity firm KKR.
He told the Atlantic he now wants to work for marriage equality, and raise funds for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which funded the successful federal challenge to California’s Proposition 8.
If the U.S. Supreme Court eventually upholds District Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s ruling earlier this month, it might also nullify Ohio’s marriage ban amendment.
Mehlman told the Atlantic he wished he would have come out sooner “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
He now says Bush “was no homophobe,” and said gay voters should support Republicans because they oppose Islamic jihad, which Mehlman told the magazine is “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”
The federal marriage amendment was pushed by Bush and Republicans while Mehlman was in their employ. At the 2005 Akron dinner, Mehlman, who was then RNC chair, expressed support for it.
“I don’t think it’s anti-gay,” said Mehlman then. “I don’t think the intent is to be anti-anything.”
Mehlman also told the Akron crowd, “Republicans are for government that stands on the side of marriage,” he said, “and on the side of strong families.”
A Chronicle reporter also questioned Mehlman at the 2004 vice presidential debate held at Case Western Reserve University.
During that interview, Mehlman discussed the Ohio campaign at that time for the ban amendment, then called Issue 1.
He said that then-Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell was active with the Issue 1 campaign and spoke to him often about it.
Blackwell said in earlier interviews that he was enlisted by Mehlman to help the Bush campaign by promoting the marriage ban amendment.
“All things flow from [Mehlman],” Blackwell told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Mehlman said then that he couldn’t remember if it was Blackwell or him who first suggested the plan, “and I wouldn’t tell you if I did remember.”
This week, Mehlman told the Atlantic, “I wish I was where I am today 20 years ago. The process of not being able to say who I am in public life was very difficult. No one else knew this except me. My family didn’t know. My friends didn’t know. Anyone who watched me knew I was a guy who was clearly uncomfortable with the topic.”